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What does a basketball star do when he wants a new bike?
If you’re Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, you ask a North Oakland bicycle builder to make you a customized ride in the shop he runs out of his Genoa Street garage.
In November 2020, David Boone, owner of The Towne Cycles, got an email from a Warriors representative. The message said that Toscano-Anderson, who grew up in deep East Oakland, wanted a simple street bike to ride around town.
Toscano-Anderson is “very passionate about supporting local business, so he is interested in possibly receiving a bike from you and in exchange, promoting your business on his various social media platforms (which would bring great publicity to Towne Cycles throughout the Bay Area and beyond),” wrote Claudia Leist, community relations coordinator for the Warriors.
Boone opened The Towne Cycles in 2014, designing and fixing bikes in his garage, which is packed to the brim with cycles and parts. The shop, located along a bike route in a residential neighborhood, caters to commuters as well as cyclists from communities historically discriminated against in the bike world.
“My immediate reaction was, yes, let’s talk about it,” Boone, an NBA fan, told The Oaklandside earlier this month. “I liked the local aspect of it, and he’s from here.” Toscano-Anderson famously wears No. 95, a reference to his childhood on 95th Avenue in Oakland.
Boone and the Dubs struck a deal: the bike builder would create something for the player, and Toscano-Anderson would promote Boone’s business on social media. Toscano-Anderson, Leist, and a couple others came to the shop later that November—the same day as the NBA draft—to test out a prototype.
Last week, eight months later, Toscano-Anderson retrieved the final product. The bike towered above the others in the shop, with a custom-built frame for the 28-year-old’s 6’6” size.
It’s a sleek white vehicle, with elements honoring Toscano-Anderson’s Mexican and Black heritage. There are green and red decals and stickers that say 510 and Mexico, referencing Toscano-Anderson’s background as well as the years he spent playing in the Mexican league.
The bike also sports an emblem of a Black Power fist. Toscano-Anderson has been active in social justice efforts and philanthropy in Oakland and elsewhere, most prominently leading a large protest around Lake Merritt last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police.
“I love it—it’s a beautiful bike,” said the player last Wednesday, when he and his girlfriend Arrianna came to get it.
Toscano-Anderson told The Oaklandside that he grew up riding bikes with his friends around his Elmhurst neighborhood. “That was how we moved around,” he said, remembering summer trips to Farrelly Pool in San Leandro.
Boone and Toscano-Anderson test-rode the bike that afternoon and connected over their love of basketball. Boone swapped out the seat, tightened the handlebars, and gave him a lock and lights. They chatted about Toscano-Anderson’s progression from the G-league to a two-year contract with the Warriors. (“You definitely get more confident with experience,” said Toscano-Anderson. “No matter how much you practice, the one thing you can’t simulate is gameplay.”) They talked maintenance tips. (“Think of your bike like your teeth; take it in every six months,” Boone advised.)
Boone was clearly proud of his creation and the chance to help out a homegrown Warrior. Toscano-Anderson was impressed with the product, a hefty upgrade from the Lyft rental bikes he and Arrianna sometimes ride along the Embarcadero.
“I always want to support local businesses and Black-owned businesses as well,” Toscano-Anderson said.
But while both Boone and Toscano-Anderson came out of the exchange beaming, Boone’s dealings with the Warriors at times left him feeling demoralized.
Although Boone agreed to the initial terms of the deal—promotion of his shop but no financial payment—he soon realized that building a custom bike for a tall professional athlete would require some extra upfront costs and favors from friends in the business. “It’s for an NBA-contracted player—you can’t be building anything that’s questionable in any way,” said Boone.
Boone soon found himself out close to $2,500 on bike parts. He estimates that with the several-week design process, the labor amounted to several thousand dollars as well, so decided to ask the Warriors if they would consider footing the bill. The Warriors declined, emails shared with The Oaklandside show, citing the initial agreement.
The Oaklandside reached out to the Warriors representatives with questions but didn’t hear back.
Boone decided to let it go, and later told The Oaklandside that “after the season Juan had, becoming a national figure, it would be worth it” to pay for the bike himself, figuring that promotion from an NBA star would yield much more than a few thousand dollars of business.
The Towne Cycles hasn’t suffered for business during the pandemic, said Boone. “Every bike shop across the nation was basically inundated with requests,” he said. But parts and labor are expensive, and “we fight week to week to make payroll” for the three staff who were converted from contractors to employees last year, he said.
Compounding Boone’s frustration, it took months after the Warriors’ initial request for the finished bike to get retrieved. Boone completed the bike in January, and asked the Warriors multiple times over the next several months to come pick it up. Team representatives cited Toscano-Anderson’s busy schedule, neglecting to set an appointment for the future.
In early July, Boone contacted The Oaklandside, wondering about his decision to make a pricy product at the request of a professional sports franchise, if the bike was going to collect dust in the garage. “This is a really whack way to treat a small business, especially when you’ve got beaucoup bucks,” he said then.
But while this reporter was interviewing Boone at his shop a few weeks ago, Boone looked through his old communications to share with us, and was startled to find Toscano-Anderson’s personal phone number in one of the messages from November. Until then, Boone had only been communicating with the player’s representatives from the Warriors. Boone called Toscano-Anderson right away, and the player immediately answered. He said he’d only recently been told that the bike was ready, and set up a time the following week to retrieve it.
On Wednesday, Toscano-Anderson drove up to the shop, where Boone was waiting for him, along with Boone’s partner, father, and a few staff, including the former high school intern who’d selected the bike decals. The player’s friend later came with a truck to transport the bicycle to San Francisco. While they were loading it, Boone and Toscano-Anderson discussed the promotion plan, which hadn’t been finalized.
“I love building bikes,” Boone told The Oaklandside. “No matter what happens, I feel good about it.”
As Boone was adjusting parts on the bike, a group of neighborhood kids—the age Toscano-Anderson was when he rode the streets of East Oakland—rolled around on their own colorful bikes across the street. They regarded the block’s tall visitor with curiosity.
“Do you play basketball?” one girl eventually called out. Yes, Toscano-Anderson said.
“Are you on the Warriors?” another child inquired. Affirmative.
As Toscano-Anderson hopped on his new possession to give it a whirl down Genoa, Boone pulled up beside him on his own bike. Toscano-Anderson’s young fans followed, pedaling furiously not far behind.
This story was updated after publication to clarify details regarding the cost of building the bike.